channels-logo.bmpEveryone wants a piece of the El Dorado of video, and the latest Silicon Valley start-up effort is Channels.com.

Channels.com, of Palo Alto, Calif., aims to be your guide for video on the Web, a place akin to YouTube — but where you can go to get any of your favorite shows from places like NBC to the Discovery Channel and scores of other cable and TV broadcasters.

Channels.com is like another company, MeeVee, in that it hopes to be an impartial starting point for users.

The challenge is the same as MeeVee’s. To make money, it needs to work out deals with the broadcasters. It will struggle for attention, because a tank-full of other video start-up piranha, such as Joost, BitTorrent and even YouTube, is also jabbing away for similar deals.

Channels, however, has been working since Dec. 2004 to develop a video grabbing technology that takes video from sites like NBC or Discovery and inserts it in a Channels.com player for you to watch. Take, for example, take NBC. Users wanting to watch its show “Heroes” can search for the show on Channels.com. They’ll get to a page like this (see screenshot below), where Channels.com presents a range of options: Users can watch full shows (see first arrow), or previews (see second arrow). NBC decides what the users get. NBC can decide to be tough, limiting the clips to ads only, or simply opting out. Channels honors their decision. Channels.com hopes to work out deals with every major broadcaster, but it has only just begun that process.

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Why would the big broadcasters want to participate? Because viewers don’t necessarily associate Heroes with NBC anymore, and they don’t want to wade through the Internet to go find it, argues chief executive Sean Doherty. Doherty was chief operating officer of @Home Network, and since then has run incubator Odyssey Telecorp. Channels.com is the latest start-up to be spun out of Odyssey. Doherty’s group, along with venture capitalist Will Hearst, has pumped in $1.6 million.

Ok, so how on earth does Channels.com hope to stand out from the crowd? It has thrown in its own Web 2.0 sweetener: It lets users create a “badge,” on which they can feature their favorite shows (see image below). The idea is to let the masses propagate the content of broadcasters across the Web via these badges. Since the broadcasters dictate the terms of use, they can be sure to get paid for any advertisements in the clips, just as they do via the Channels.com Web site. Channels.com hopes to make money by taking a small cut of revenue. If NBC gets 10 cents in ad revenue on a clip watched by a user, it may give Channels 3 cents for the favor. Channels also hopes to make money by charging for better placement on the site.

Another valiant effort, with two years of serious prep. But it’s too early to tell whether this will get any traction. Investor Hearst, you’ll recall, was a backer of another video start-up, Akimbo, which has yet to really take off (previous coverage).

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